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Coaching Learners to Enhance the Tone of Email Writing for SPM 1119/2 Part 1

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What is tone in writing? The writing tone does reflect or refer to the feeling/s conveyed through a word, phrase or sentence. Similar to the tone of voice, the tone in any written form can reveal if the message carries the idea of happiness, neutrality, friendliness, support, persuasion or sadness. For sure, the tone in writing can also convey many other emotions or feelings. This article will focus on the tone in writing short communicative messages; Part 1 of SPM 1119/2.

SPM 1119/2 requires candidates to write three essays; Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Part 1 focuses on writing short communicative messages like the two email questions below. Part 1

You must answer this question.

Question 1

You received an email from Zack, your cousin, who will have a one-month school holiday.


As you know, my one-month holiday will start next week. I know nothing about cooking but plan to learn how to cook. Who do you think should teach me how to cook? How long should I learn to cook? What kinds of dishes should I focus on and why?

Appreciate your suggestions.


Write an email to your friend in about 80 words. Write your answer below.

Question 2

You received an email from your best friend, Isaac, who plans to celebrate his grandfather’s birthday.


Help me please! I’m not sure what to do and need ideas to celebrate my grandfather’s 75th birthday next month. Where shall I have the birthday party? Who should be invited? How can I make his birthday party awesome?

Hope to get some ideas from you.


Write an email to your friend in about 80 words. Write your answer below.

How can learners enhance the tone of their email? It is simple. All they need to do is to examine the sender / character and situation which she or he is in. For example, in Question 1 above, candidates or learners must truly understand Zack’s situation who has zero knowledge about cooking but wishes to learn how to cook. In this context, there should be 1-2 sentences that give motivation to Zack such as “Don’t worry if you don’t know how to cook Zack because I know you are a fast learner” or “Learning how to cook? Wow! Go for it Zack!” One of the relevant tones for Question 1 is encouraging. The encouragement expressed in those sentences would surely enhance the tone of the email response.

Perhaps, another possible tone is impressive. The introduction of the email can be something like this, “You wish to learn how to cook? I salute you, Zack!” This tone can be reinforced in fulfilling the second task when this sentence is written; “You must learn to cook from your grandmother because she is the best cook in the world!”

On the other hand, the situation is different in Question 2 as it is obvious Isaac is worried and in need of help or advice. Therefore, the tone should be comforting and sentences like the following should be included in the email response; “Relax Isaac, you know I’m always here for you” and “Nothing to worry dear, just stay calm and let me suggest this to you.”

The persuasive or convincing tone can also be relevant if the candidates write sentences like the following;

i) “You must not miss the chance to have the party at Sunshine Café as it offers awesome birthday packages” (Where shall I have the birthday party?)

ii) “Please don’t forget to invite his old friends.” (Who should be invited?)

iii) “All the family members must sing his favourite song. I am highly assured your grandfather will be melted with the surprise.” (How can I make his birthday party awesome?)

The point is teachers must coach their learners to identify the keywords to help them understand the sender / character and situation mentioned in the question. If intermediate or lower intermediate learners need more help to construct sentences, then, perhaps, teachers can prepare model sentences which serve different functions. For instances:

i) To calm down: “Relax, I am sure it will be over soon.”

ii) To motivate: :Go for it dear! I know that’s the best for you.”

iii) To offer help: “You know you can count on me dear. Just give me a call anytime.”

In essence, making sure the email has one or two relevant tones is not that difficult. Candidates should be exposed to more email questions and they discuss on the relevant tones and sentence structures. “Practice makes perfect” is a cliché but it is very relevant. That is what learners, especially the less proficient ones, need.


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